Meeting a farmer is probably a rare thing for kids today. Every day we put food on the table and while we know someone has grown and harvested it, the distance between the source and our bellies is often a long one. There is a growing desire for people to reconnect to the land and to the places our food really comes from and the Open Farm Day on Sunday 7 April between 10am and 4pm in Nillumbik is a great way to get ‘on the land’ and to the heart of our food supply. And meet a variety of farmers from differnt areas of agriculture inlcuding nurseries, meat growers, orchardists, vignerons, community farming and more.
An easy one hour’s drive from Melbourne, the region will open the doors of 16 working farms for one day only, inviting families to step inside the barn and the meet the people who grow the things we love to eat.
The day is offered as a ‘choose your own’ trail where there are plenty of opportunities to meet local farmers, taste lots of different farm fresh produce, get hands one with some friendly farm animals and livestock, and participate in demonstrations and workshops where you and the children will learn about farming techniques and discover some savvy ways to fall in love with fruit, get vibed up about veggies, fresh with flowers and well informed about wine.
The Nillumbik farms are on the urban fringe of Melbourne and are the city’s closest food bowl. There is a Trail Map and Passport (download here) to guide you to the farms and local producers you want to visit and kids can collect a sticker for their passport at each one. (There’s a prize draw too!). The day is a free event although some farms may have special activities at a small cost. And while there’s plenty to learn about produce farmers, there are many ‘other’ types of farmers to meet too!
Here are two different types of farmers you’ll meet on the Open Farm Day Trail:
Omaru Alpaca Farm, Cottles Bridge
Babies, babies, babies! The nursery at Omaru Alpaca Farm will be in cuteness overload with a brand new generation of bubby alpacas being born in the lead up to Open Farm Day. The 65 head-and-growing herd will be delighted to welcome you to the farm for a day of alpaca love. You’ll have a chance to hand feed an alpaca, and maybe even take one for a walk on a lead! Sian will be on hand to tell you all about how to care for their needs, how to enjoy their fleece (there’s a shop onsite with Alpaca shawls and garments) and share some tips for owning and loving an alpaca as a pet.
Did you know alpacas are fantastic herd guards? This farm breeds and provides these versatile animals to other farmers for the protection of sheep, goats and even chooks. There’s so much to love about alpacas. Sian’s a passionate farmer, who after several professional careers including teaching, IT and immigration law, has ‘retired’ to farming and she’s busier than ever. Come and meet mum and daughter Honeysuckle and Hilda, and the tiniest alpaca Brio. There’s four generations of fluffy family love to enjoy.
Hildebrand Ridge Organic Vineyard, Cottles Bridge
Jeff is a lifestyle farmer (who is also a qualified chemist and lecturer) who has 7-8 acres of land under vine grown and processed using only organic principles and sustainable farming practices. At Hildebrand you will see how sheep make excellent helpers when it comes to weed control, and how his special ‘white spray’ (milk and bi carb) helps ward of mildew and other pests.
Jeff is keen to be an example of how organic farming can contribute to the big picture, and while his yields may be slightly lower, the intensity and depth of fruit is something he is really proud of. At the vineyard, Jeff will be at the cellar door to share his knowledge about wine and may even share a song or two! He’s a passionate musician, and plays double bass and guitar, so performances are always high on the agenda at the vineyard. You’ll have to ask him yourself if music makes the grape grow happier!
Bring your gumboots and a hat – it’s time to get farming!
Open farms and businesses include:
Apted's Orchards, Balashi Flowers & Nursery, CRAFT Kitchen and Bar, Edendale Community Environment Farm, Easthill Estate, Hilderbrand Ridge Organic Vineyard, Hurstbridge Farmers Market, Kings of Kangaroo Ground, Nillumbik Estate Winery, Omaru Alpacas, Shaw’s Road Winery, Sugarloaf Produce, Turners Bakehouse Eatery, Weeping Grevillea Nursery, Yarra Valley Custom Meats.